Our Visit to SeaWorld in San Diego and Giveaway

a few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to take the kids to their first visit ever to SeaWorld in San Diego. we were invited to check out the park, the new improvements, shows and rides, plus take a tour of the SeaWorld Animal Care center. my boys were so excited because they love animals so much…and being up close to animals not only is amazing, but inspiring. these kind of experiences are what make people want to help the animals…and that is exactly why my kids love them so much. (make sure to read to the bottom for a great giveaway!!!!)

we started the day at the touch tank in the front of the park. there you can experience hands-on with the sea life. there are tiny fish that will suck on your hands and sand sharks. plus we got to see shark eggs with baby shark growing inside.

next up we met some land animals that were rescued by SeaWorld. a penguin and a screech owl. we were not allowed to touch the screech owl, but she was sure cute.

after learning about the land animals, we headed over to Dolphin Days, the dolphin show at SeaWorld. it wasn’t so much a show, but a learning experience about dolphins. we got to see different varieties of dolphins and pilot whales, and also learned how the animals are trained and cared for. did you know that the animals are only taught with positive reinforcement. there is no punishing them for not doing what the trainers want. everything the dolphins do is because they want to…and they looked so happy!

after the show, we got a special experience. we got to meet one of the dolphins…and wow, he was such a character. he let us feed him, take a picture with him….

and then he gave the kids a surprise LOL. SOAKED!!!!!!

when it came to eating and meals at SeaWorld, there are a lot of dining options including Dine with Shamu. our family got the All-Day Dining Pass which was perfect. you can get an entreé, a side dish and a non-alcoholic drink as often as every hour if you want. it’s a great price too. the kids were excited to get treats like these Shamu cookies!

one of the kids favorite parts of the day was visiting the SeaWorld Animal Care Center. they got to learn about the amazing things the SeaWorld team does to help animal around the world.

the goal of the SeaWorld rescue program is and has always been to medically rehabilitate and return all animals back to their home in the wild. on average, SeaWorld San Diego comes to the aid of over 300 to 400 marine animals every year – including sea lions, seals, dolphins, whales, sea turtles and sea birds.

we learned how it is important to keep garbage and plastic out of the oceans, and to make sure it is properly disposed of. when sea life ingests it, they can become sick. we also met one of the dolphins who was being rehabilitated.

SeaWorld San Diego has rescued more than 17,000 animals over the history of the park, and all the SeaWorld parks have rescued more than 30,000 animals in the last 50 years. the SeaWorld rescue program is a primary example of the passion SeaWorld has for the lives of all animals, and it was such a treat for the boys to ask the SeaWorld staff  questions about the animals.

you can’t go to SeaWorld without seeing the SeaWorld Orca Encounter. it takes place in a ginormous amphitheater where you learn about the Orcas, their history and behaviors. it’s not a show, more like an informative discussion. Orcas are so beautiful.

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Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in San Francisco Chinatown

last summer we took a road trip up the coast of California and stopped in San Francisco, one of my favorite cities in California. there are so many things to enjoy in San Francisco, from the Wharf, to the museums, to the food, to the architecture. there are also many streets or sections of San Fran that are influenced by different cultures – each one lined with stores, restaurants and architecture reflecting it. Chinatown happens to be one of our family’s favorite areas to explore. it is the largest China Town outside of Asia, and there are lots of unique things to see that are different from what we experience at home in our daily lives. we love all of China Town, but the boys most favorite part is visiting the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory – which you can probably guess…is a real life fortune cookie factory.

before i show you photos of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, i wasted to share some of the other photos i took on our way to it. as you most likely know, most travel around San Francisco is done by walking or public transportation. i really love this way of traveling around this city. that way you can take everything in and enjoy its unique charm. we took the trolley to the main entrance of China Town – which is known as Dragon’s Gate because there are two dragon statues. it is located on Bush Street. you can easily take a bus or trolley there…it’s very well known.
once you are at Dragon’s Gate, you can walk north towards the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory which is a few blocks up. the street is strewn with red and gold lanterns and building decorated in gold and dragons.

we let the boys stop in some of the stores and buy a few souvenir. these kitty chopsticks were one of their favorite purchases.

there are also some beautiful colorful murals painted on buildings along the way. there is also lots of yummy Chinese food. you can find both nice sit down restaurants, and also takeout. since we were on the go, we opted for a quick and easy stop. the boys got all their favorites…of course, noodles too.

and we had to stop at the Golden Gate Bakery for a sweet treat.

the last stop and final destination in Chinatown was the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. it is located in Ross Alley. don’t be shocked if this area looks a bit run down and run down. it’s old…and it’s an alley, but you are in the right place. there will probably even be long lines of people waiting to enter the old original store. it’s been around since 1962. if you look closely, you will see popsicle dad waiting in line!

once you get inside the entrance, you will see fortune cookies being made right in front of you. the sweet smell of baking fortune cookies is incredible. and they give you lots of samples to taste.

you get to see the entire process, from batter to fortune to folded cookie. first, the thin circular cookie is pulled off a hot press. next, a fortune is placed on one side of the hot, flat dough. 

finally, each soft, hot cookie is shaped over a steel rod into the shape of a fortune cookie. all of this has to be done very quickly, otherwise the cookie will harden before it is created into a  fortune cookie shape.

another cool thing – you can have you own fortune cookies made with your own special message put inside.we let each boy make some to give to relatives and for themselves. they thought this was so awesome.

and here is the final product! warm, delicious and ready to enjoy.

it was such a fun experience for the boys…and us adults to see the entire process of making a fortune cookie. they also learned a lot because we ask the store owners to tell us a lot of the history behind the store. it was very interesting.  the eating part was pretty great too!


here is a short video of our time at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.

Popsicle Blog Road Trip: Lava Hot Springs

Lava Hot Spring Water Parkwhen we went on our famous road trip a couple of years ago, one of the places that we hadn’t expected to enjoy as much as we did was Lava Hot Springs. it’s a little town in southern Idaho about an hour north of the Utah/Idaho border. we only allotted for an overnight stay, but we wished that we had booked two nights. it’s a charming little city that is popular with tourists and locals, with lots of things to do including river rafting, tubing, swimming, hot pools, the sunken garden, shopping, dining and hiking. it’s known for its world famous hot pools, that are filled with natural geothermic spring water. the hot springs also heat the amazing Olympic Swimming Complex. this is the entrance to the city, it’s got to be the coolest entrance to a city that i’ve seen. just look at those waterslides!
Fun Places to Visit in Idahosince we were traveling with a travel trailer in tow, we chose to stay at the Lava Hot Springs KOA. you don’t have to have a trailer or RV to stay there though, they also have cabins and tent camping options available. the Lava Hot Spring KOA was pretty amazing. this is the first time we’ve gotten to camp on the banks of a river with our trailer. it was so beautiful and peaceful to sit outside our trailer and watch the river run by and also the beautiful nature landscapes.

Lava Hot Springs Idaho KOANatural Hot Springs Rafting RiverIdaho KOA Campgroundsthe Lava Hot Springs KOA has been one of our favorite KOA’s yet. mostly because we felt that we were at one with nature, and the Portneuf river was so beautiful. there were fire pits to cook on, and trails to explore. the KOA owners were so sweet and friendly and were  happy to show us the best places to buy things and explore. Travel in IdahoCamping in Idahoi think it would be so fun to stay at one of the cabins if we didn’t have a travel trailer. but i am not really a tent camper…but there was a nice area for tent camping.

Idaho KOA cabinsBest Idaho CampgroundsKOA Campgrounds in Lava Hot SpringsNatural Hot Springs in the United StatesLava Hot Springs KOA campsites in Idahothe next day was all about exploring Lava Hot Springs. early that morning, we headed over to the Lava Hot Springs World Famous Hot Pools. we were told that the earlier you go the better. this is because the pools get hotter as the day goes on due to the sunshine. the water from the hot pools comes bubbling out of natural underground springs, the hot water is laden with minerals, but has no sulfur so it doesn’t stink like most hot spring. over 2.5 million gallons of hot water per day runs through the hot springs and are diverted into the Portneuf River keeping the springs ever changing and clean. the spring’s temperatures range from approximately 102˚ to 112˚ degrees, so the water is almost too hot for little kids. it was almost to hot for the hubby and me, but we still had a great time checking them out. since the hot springs are open all year long, they told us that it is really fun to come when snow is on the ground. like a hot tub in winter.
Lava Hot Springs IdahoBest Places to Visit in Idahothere were 4 large hot pools that included a newer cool pool with a temperature of 102º. this is the pool the boys spent the most time in. it was a fun learning experience teaching the boys how that water was warmed naturally underground.Lava Hot Springs in IdahoLava Hot Springs Hot PoolsPlaying in the Hot PoolsNatural Hot Springs Public Pools Natural Hot SpringsLava Hot Springs Baths in IdahoHot Pools in Idahoafter checking out the hot pools, we headed over to the Olympic Swimming Complex. the Olympic Swimming Complex is the only facility of its kind in the Intermountain West. all the water is heated!!!!  have you ever been on a waterslide that has heated water?!!!  the  Olympic Swimming Complex has indoor and outdoor pools, diving boards and platforms, waterslides, a natural hot water spa, and the new Portneuf Kiddie Cove. the is something fun for kids of all ages.

Lava Hot Springs Swimming PoolsLava Hot Springs Olympic Swimming ComplexFun Places to Visit in Lava Hot Springsthe Olympic Swimming Complex’s free form Olympic-size pool holds nearly a million gallons of warm, crystal clear water. the outdoor shallow end offers toys for younger swimmers and little slides. it was a pretty popular place, there were lots of people at the complex, most had blankets, umbrellas and picnics set up on the lawn. i only wish they had something like this where i am in Orange County!Lava Hot Springs Olympic Swimming Complex in IdahoIdaho Olympic PoolFamily Travel in Idahothere are some exhilarating waterslides that are fun for the whole family, including small slides for the kiddies. the speed slides’ six-story body flumes send riders screaming into the refreshing runout below. but beware, the 60 foot drop is not for the faint of heart! two curly tube slides are great for children, splashing them around and leaving them laughing as they splash into the shallow runout at the bottom.

Idaho Heated Water SlidesIdaho Olympic Pools Water SlidesFun Waterslides in Idahothen there are the diving platforms. they don’t have these at waterparks in California! it’s a thrill for those brave enough to leap from its 5, 7, and 10 meter heights. four springboards flank the platform tower making this a diver’s paradise. no one in our family was brave enough to try any of the platforms out, but it was pretty amazing watching those who were, dive off of them. and in case you were wondering, you have to sign a waiver in order to be allowed to dive off them.
Lava Hot Springs Water SlidesIdaho Waterslidesthe Olympic Swimming Complex has two indoor areas to enjoy as well, a large lap pool, and the Portneuf Kiddie Cove. my boys enjoyed playing in the cove once they had gotten a little too much sun. there were fun thinks to play with such as water features, slides, fountains and smaller pools.Lava Hot Springs Olympic PoolIdaho Recreation SpotsIdaho Olypic Swimming Complex Children's PoolsIdaho Olympic Swimming Complex Children's Poolsanother thing we did was visit the Sunken Gardens. they were pretty and fun to explore. i did take some photos, but for some reason i can’t find them. however, one thing we didn’t get to do in Lava Hot Springs was go tubing on the river. all over town you can find rafting tubes for rent. you can take them into the slow moving Portneuf river rapid and ride them for about 5 blocks. there are designated entry points to enter and exit, and once you float down the entire way, you can do it again until you a tired. we would have loved to try this, but time was short and we thought Vann, our youngest was too young. but next time we are in the area, we are going for sure! Lava Hot Springs Inner TubingNatural Hot Springs RaftingNatural Hot Springs Rafting in the United StatesIdaho Hot Spring AttractionsLava Hot Springs Tourist AttractionsLava Hot Springs River Rafting

we had the best time in Lava Hot Springs and we were sad to say goodbye. but there was still a lot of traveling ahead and adventure to be had. so back on the road we went on our way to Yellowstone.

Lava Hot Springs City

check out some more of our Popsicle Adventures during our summer 2014 road trip through Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Yellowstone:

Where We Traveled
How We Traveled
Tahiti Village – Las Vegas
Denny’s and Fremont Street – Las Vegas
Cedar City KOA
Fort Zion – Utah
Zion National Park – Utah
Kanab – Utah
Historic Parry Lodge – Kanab, Utah
Coral Pink Sand Dunes – Kanab, Utah
The Real Up House – Herriman, Utah

Our Family’s Visit to the Great Wolf Lodge in Southern California

Family Guide to Great Wolf Lodge in Garden Grove

from the moment i found out about the Great Wolf Lodge, i knew that i wanted to take my family on a vacation there. it was about four years ago when i read a post on another blog about the Great Wolf Lodge in Texas. it looked AMAZING…like a rustic lodge with amazing experiences for kids and a giant indoor water park. at that time, there were only seven Great Wolf Lodges in the United States, but the ones in Texas and  Seattle were the closest to us here in California. unfortunately, our family was never able to travel anywhere close to any Great Wolf Lodges. so imagine my excitement to find out that one would be opening in Southern California!!!!! Garden Grove in Orange County to be exact.

we anxiously watched the construction and even went on a hard hat tour while the work was in progress. atlas, it was finished and recently just opened this past February. my family finally got to take that vacation, or should i say “staycation”, to the Great Wolf Lodge in Southern California last month!

we had an absolutely fabulous time. all of us….parents and kids. it was more than i had thought it would be. and so that you can see what to expect when you stay at the Great Wolf Lodge Southern California…i’m going to share some….okay A LOT of photos from our visit.  click here for discounts and deals to stay at Great Wolf Lodge Southern California.

Great Wolf Lodge Southern California review

the Great Wolf Lodge is unlike any other hotel or resort in Southern California. its 100% geared towards families – everything you need is right there in the resort, from food, to entertainment to the hotel rooms. you can eat, sleep and play and not have to worry about leaving the resort until your stay is over. kids are allowed to do what they do best, just be kids. it’s okay to be loud, run and have FUN. and be prepared for lots of it.

when we walked in the lobby, we were greeted into a grand lodge…with vaulting ceilings, a gigantic stone fireplace that is used as a gathering place for bedtime story time and dance parties, and wilderness murals flanking the walls.

The Entrance to the Great Wolf LodgeGreat Wolf Lodge StaircaseGreat Wolf Lodge Staircase DetailGreat Wolf Lodge BenchGreat Wolf Lodge Fire PlaceGreat Wolf Lodge ChandalierGreat Wolf Lodge Lobby

i immediately felt my kids excitement as we entered. they wanted to start exploring right away! so we quickly checked in and headed up to our room to put away our luggage. everyone who is staying in the room is given a wristband that acts as your room key. it allows you access to the water park, and the coolest thing is not ever having to worry about losing a room key. this saved me so much time…you don’t even know!

the rooms are fun…decorated in rustic cabin style. there are many types to choose – from standard to deluxe. we happened to stay in a “Kid Cabin” which has a separate area for the kids with themed wallpaper and creatures on the wall that have special effects when you wave a MagiQuest wand at them.
Great Wolf Lodge Towel WolfPlaying in the Kids CabinGreat Wolf Lodge Bunk BedsKid Cabin at the Great Wolf Lodge

the rooms were cool…but not where we wanted to spend the day, as there were so many more things to explore at the GWL. we changed into our swim suits and headed out…..straight to the water park! because that’s the main reason why you stay at GWL. when you enter the water park, the kids get measured and given a color coded band that lets you and the lifeguards know which rides you are safe to ride on. you can also get pool towels.

Height Check for Slides at the Great Wolf LodgeTowels at the Great Wolf Lodge

check it out! how fun is this water park. there are slides for every age, Fort Mackenzie with lots of water features and a giant bucket that pours water every few minutes, a full-sized wave pool, places to splash, swim and climb…and sooooooo much more!!!! the water is heated to 84º and the air is also a nice 84º. you don’t ever have to worry about rain, or putting on sunscreen.

Lily Pad JumpingFort MackenzieKid Waterslide at the Great Wolf LodgeWave Pool at the Great Wolf LodgeSouthern California Water ParkSlide Tubes at the Great Wolf LodgeRainbow Slides at the Great Wolf LodgeSwimming in the wave poolLazy River at the Great Wolf LodgeWater Snake at the Great Wolf LodgeFamily Raft at the Great Wolf Lodge Southern CaliforniaRaft Slides at the Great Wolf LodgeFun Water Parks in Southern California

my boys’ favorite ride was the FlowRider. a wave simulator that you can surf on. and no, there is no extra cost to ride it.

Wave Machine at the Great Wolf Lodge

my hubby loved the Wolf Tail slide that basically drops the floor out from under you in a 20 foot drop into a water slide. yikes…i didn’t try it, but he sure loved it.

Expert Waterslides at Great Wolf Lodge

Vann and i spent a good part of the time in the kiddie area which had slides, pools and fun toys to play with that were just his size.  you didn’t have to worry about the big kids being too rough in this area.

baby water park area at Great Wolf Lodgebaby Slides at the Great Wolf LodgeSplashing at the Great Wolf LodgePool Decorations at the Great Wolf LodgeKiddie area at the Great Wolf Lodge

finally, not all of the water park is indoors. if you need some fresh air, head outside and enjoy the outdoor splash pool.

Outdoor Water Park area at the Great Wolf Lodge

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Family Road Trip to Salvation Mountain in the California

Trip to Salvation Mountainlast summer, during our visit to Palm Desert and the Indian Wells Resort & Spa, we took a day trip out to Salvation Mountain, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. i had been wanting to visit the Mountain for years, but since the drive is very out of the way, i hadn’t gotten the chance before. Salvation Mountain is a life-sized piece of artwork – made from adobe, straw, and thousands of gallons of lead-free paint. it is the masterpiece and vision of a local resident, Leonard Knight, who recently died in 2014. it encompasses numerous murals and areas painted with Christian sayings and Bible verses, though its philosophy was built around the Sinner’s Prayer. it is Leonard’s tribute to God.

Leonard Knight's Tribute to God

Salvation Mountain is located in the Colorado Desert, in Imperial County, California – several miles from the Salton Sea. i would say about an hour drive past Palm Desert or Coachella. it is a drive, and there isn’t much on the way besides and couple of restaurants (not sure if they were open), a Banana Museum, and a small town. there were not a lot of amenities, so if you plan on taking a visit to the mountain plan accordingly. you need to take water, food and have a full tank of gas. you really don’t want to be out there stranded as cell reception is also sketchy. this is what most of the drive looks like.

Information on Salvation Mountain

after an hour or so of driving, we finally made it to Salvation Mountain. the boys whining about the long car ride stopped as they looked at the area of Salvation Mountain in awe. it was such a cool sight. unlike anything we’ve ever seen. it doesn’t matter what religion you are, or whether you are religious or not, there is no denying that Salvation Mountain is a special and unique place. the colors, the patterns, the sculptures, the message, just make you feel happy.God Never Fails at Salvation MountainGod is LoveSalvation Mountain in Palm SpringsLeonard Knight's Salvation MountainLeonard Knight California Artistafter the initial awe of arriving to Salvation Mountain, we decided to make our way to the top to get a better look at the land and the surroundings. i would have to say this was a really special experience to have as a family.
Yellow Brick Road at Salvation Mountain in CaliforniaSalvation Mountain Leonard Knight's LegacySalvation Mountain FlowersYellow Brick Road at Salvation MountainClimbing up Salvation MountainExploring Salvation Mountain

from the top of Salvation Mountain this is the view. it’s pretty cool the contrast of the flat desert and the colorful mounds, trash sculptures and abandoned cars of Leonard Knight’s mountain.

View from Salvation MountainFrom the Top of Salvation Mountain Cross at the Top of Salvation MountainGod at Salvation Mountainnow let me tell you, we visited the mountain in the middle of summer. IT WAS HOT!!!!!!!!! so hot that my smartphone overheated for a while. i would say it was around 110º degrees f. that sun beat down on us, but we trekked on. this is why cold water is important to bring with you. during the winter, i have been told that it is much cooler and enjoyable. so it the heat is something you can not tolerate, take that into consideration.

the Folk Art Society of America has declared Salvation Mountain “a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection” in the year 2000. the boys and i were anxious to explore the entire mountain. there are lots of unique details around every corner. we spent and hour exploring , taking pictures and wondering through the caves. you feel like you are in the land of Dr. Suess. and every part of the mountain hold a new surprise.

Visiting Salvation MountainLeonard Knight ArtistDr. Suess Salvation MountainGod is Love at Salvation MountainThe Holy Bible at Salvation MountainSculptures at Salvation MountainSalvation Mountain in the California Desert if you look closely at at the details of Leonard’s artwork, you will find things like historic pictures in the walls and old books and journals. before you leave, don’t forget to sign the visitor book to let other know you have been there.Treasures at Salvation MountainCaves in Salvation MountainBible Room at Salvation MountainSigning the book at Salvation Mountainmany people in the area are concerned for the future of the site, which requires constant maintenance due to the harsh surrounding environment. many visitors bring paint to donate to the project, and a group of volunteers has been working to protect and maintain it. a public charity, Salvation Mountain, Inc., has been established to support the upkeep.

Jesus Loves YouSalvation Mountain Bible TruckSalvation Mountain TruckSalvation Mountain in CaliforniaPainted Adobe Mountainsteps beyond Salvation Mountain you will find the entrance into Slab City. you are welcome to drive into Slab City, but i suggest to use caution. i would not consider it a safe place as you never know who or what is out there…i wouldn’t suggest getting out of your car or having your children wonder around the area. Slab City is considered of-the-grid and gets it’s name from the concrete slabs that are left from the abandoned World War II Marine barracks of Camp Dunlap. people go there to escape modern society. many are destitute or don’t want to be found. it has been a place where fugitives and drug addicts have called home, and even a population of modern day hobos — known as “train kids”.

Slab City Welcome

everyone who lives on Slab City’s 640 acres are squatters on state-owned land. they don’t pay rent, and so it’s often referred to as “the last free place in America.” there is no electricity, no water and no sewer system. it’s also free from garbage pickup and the land is covered in trash. many campers use generators or solar panels to generate electricity. honestly, i don’t see how people survive out there. it was so hot when we went that i thought i would die.

we quickly drove through to get a peek, but that was it. the people there don’t want to be bothered. it was funky and decorated with trash and silly signs….even a space ship. it definitely was interesting. you can find out more about Slab City by searching online. there have been many documentaries made about it, all very interesting, and share the good and the bad about this make-shift city in the middle of nowhere.

Slab City EntranceSlab City Slab City Photos

we made our way home after our quick drive through Slab City. it sure was an adventure being able to visit Salvation Mountain and “the last free place in America” – Slab City. although visiting the mountain is an hour out of the way of Palm Desert, i would still recommend a visit at least once in your life. it’s a different kind of place, that leaves you will a different kind of feeling when you leave. it’s a place you will always remember visiting. i know that i will go back again someday…

Popsicle Blog at Salvation Mountain

Angela, my friend and blogger of Mommy Mania also visited Salvation Mountain on her $600 Road Trip, you can read about here adventure here. and then go on a take your own road trip!